Madrid too good for Mallorca
MADRID (AFP): Real Madrid assistant manager Aitor Karanka said they must stop conceding poor goals from set-pieces as the Spanish champions twice had to come from a goal down to beat Mallorca 5-2 at the Bernabeu on Saturday.
The visitors went into half-time 2-1 ahead as Emilio Nsue and Alejandro Alfaro scored free headers either side of Gonzalo Higuain’s reply for Madrid, and Mallorca could easily have gone 3-1 up before the break when Alan Hutton headed just wide from a corner.
“Set-pieces have caused us problems since the start of the season,” Karanka told a press conference.
“It is due to a lack of concentration and communication and obviously it is something we have to keep improving on for the final part of the season.”
Luckily for Los Blancos the introduction of Mesut Ozil and Karim Benzema at half-time turned the game around as three goals in six minutes from Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Higuain gave them a comfortable lead before Benzema rounded off the scoring in stoppage time.
“In the first-half we were making a lot of errors, not only in the goals but in giving the ball away and committing stupid fouls,” said Karanka.
“With the changes Kaka and Modric were able to gain possession and I think the squad is built for this.
“You can put out the team you think is best but like against Deportivo a couple of weeks ago or today the important and good thing is we can change the dynamic of games with those that come on.”
Although still in the bottom three, Mallorca had won their two previous games and started brightly as Giovani Dos Santos saw an effort from distance fly just over Diego Lopez’s goal.
And just six minutes in the islanders took the lead as Giovani burst down the left and his cross was brilliantly headed into the bottom corner by Nsue.
Higuain came close to an immediate reply as his prodded effort from close range bounced to safety off Dudu Aouate’s face, but the Argentine was on hand to level on 14 minutes as Modric’s pass released Pepe clear on goal and he squared for Higuain to roll home.
However, Mallorca were still posing a threat and they retook the lead when Giovani produced another fine cross from a corner that was flicked on by Pedro Bigas and headed in at the back post by Alfaro.
Ronaldo ought to have levelled again shortly afterwards as he blazed over from Kaka’s through ball and the Portuguese then clipped the bar at the end of a fine Madrid move involving Kaka and Higuain.
Hutton then came within inches of putting Mallorca further ahead just before half-time from another corner as Madrid continued to struggle from set-pieces.
Jose Mourinho reacted by introducing Ozil and Benzema at the break, but it was again Mallorca who had the first opportunity of the second-half as Bigas spooned an overhead kick over the bar when completely unmarked just six yards out.
And that miss was to prove crucial as a rapid three-goal salvo decisively swung the game in the hosts’ favour.
Firstly, Ronaldo leapt highest to nod in an Ozil corner from the right before Modric volleyed in a wonderful strike from fully 30 yards three minutes later.
And Ozil’s presence was felt once more moments later as he showed great composure to lay the ball across the face of goal for Higuain to fire in his second of the evening.
The chances continued to come for Madrid and Aouate produced a wonderful save to prevent Higuain from sealing his hat-trick seven minutes from time.
And Madrid finished with a flourish as Higuain crossed for Benzema to round off the scoring as they cut the gap on Barcelona at the top of the table to 10 points ahead of the Catalans’ clash with Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.